'T is strange enough — the rough, tough soldiers, who
Spared neither sex nor age in their career
Of carnage, when this old man was pierced through,
And lay before them with his children near,
Touch'd by the heroism of him they slew,
Were melted for a moment: though no tear
Flow'd from their bloodshot eyes, all red with strife,
They honour'd such determined scorn of life.
But the stone bastion still kept up its fire,
Where the chief pacha calmly held his post:
Some twenty times he made the Russ retire,
And baffled the assaults of all their host;
At length he condescended to inquire
If yet the city's rest were won or lost;
And being told the latter, sent a bey
To answer Ribas' summons to give way.
In the mean time, cross-legg'd, with great sang-froid,
Among the scorching ruins he sat smoking
Tobacco on a little carpet; — Troy
Saw nothing like the scene around: — yet looking
With martial stoicism, nought seem'd to annoy
His stern philosophy; but gently stroking
His beard, he puff'd his pipe's ambrosial gales,
As if he had three lives, as well as tails.
The town was taken — whether he might yield
Himself or bastion, little matter'd now:
His stubborn valour was no future shield.
Ismail 's no more! The crescent's silver bow
Sunk, and the crimson cross glared o'er the field,
But red with no redeeming gore: the glow
Of burning streets, like moonlight on the water,
Was imaged back in blood, the sea of slaughter.
All that the mind would shrink from of excesses;
All that the body perpetrates of bad;
All that we read, hear, dream, of man's distresses;
All that the devil would do if run stark mad;
All that defies the worst which pen expresses;
All by which hell is peopled, or as sad
As hell — mere mortals who their power abuse —
Was here (as heretofore and since) let loose.
If here and there some transient trait of pity
Was shown, and some more noble heart broke through
Its bloody bond, and saved perhaps some pretty
Child, or an aged, helpless man or two —
What 's this in one annihilated city,
Where thousand loves, and ties, and duties grew?
Cockneys of London! Muscadins of Paris!
Just ponder what a pious pastime war is.
Think how the joys of reading a Gazette
Are purchased by all agonies and crimes:
Or if these do not move you, don't forget
Such doom may be your own in aftertimes.
Meantime the Taxes, Castlereagh, and Debt,
Are hints as good as sermons, or as rhymes.
Read your own hearts and Ireland's present story,
Then feed her famine fat with Wellesley's glory.
But still there is unto a patriot nation,
Which loves so well its country and its king,
A subject of sublimest exultation —
Bear it, ye Muses, on your brightest wing!
Howe'er the mighty locust, Desolation,
Strip your green fields, and to your harvests cling,
Gaunt famine never shall approach the throne —
Though Ireland starve, great George weighs twenty stone.
But let me put an end unto my theme:
There was an end of Ismail — hapless town!
Far flash'd her burning towers o'er Danube's stream,
And redly ran his blushing waters down.
The horrid war-whoop and the shriller scream
Rose still; but fainter were the thunders grown:
Of forty thousand who had mann'd the wall,
Some hundreds breathed — the rest were silent all!
In one thing ne'ertheless 't is fit to praise
The Russian army upon this occasion,
A virtue much in fashion now-a-days,
And therefore worthy of commemoration:
The topic 's tender, so shall be my phrase —
Perhaps the season's chill, and their long station
In winter's depth, or want of rest and victual,
Had made them chaste; — they ravish'd very little.
Much did they slay, more plunder, and no less
Might here and there occur some violation
In the other line; — but not to such excess
As when the French, that dissipated nation,
Take towns by storm: no causes can I guess,
Except cold weather and commiseration;
But all the ladies, save some twenty score,
Were almost as much virgins as before.
Some odd mistakes, too, happen'd in the dark,
Which show'd a want of lanterns, or of taste —
Indeed the smoke was such they scarce could mark
Their friends from foes, — besides such things from haste
Occur, though rarely, when there is a spark
Of light to save the venerably chaste:
But six old damsels, each of seventy years,
Were all deflower'd by different grenadiers.